Guest Post: Nadine Gordon On Canada

We don’t hear that much about Canada these days. Ever since the French-speaking people in Quebec stopped protesting about the British Royal Family, and Pierre Trudeau died, it seems that Canada hardly exists outside of North America. No reports of how they have been affected by the pandemic, and not even a feature on one of their ‘big freeze’ weather events. So when I read a post on the blog of Canadian writer Nadine Gordon, I thought it was only right to ask her to appear here as a guest blogger, and let us know what is going in in that vast country.

The Trefoil Muse Blog

https://thetrefoilmuse.blog/

This is a short ‘bio’ about the author, Nadine Gordon.

I began my writing career as a journalist for a small local newspaper. That’s where I discovered while interviewing several subjects that they shone while relating their own stories of how they accomplished that extraordinary feat to obtain victory or explained how to operate that new equipment prototype or even shared what the exciting idea behind the grand opening of a new store was. I thanked my lucky stars that I was the one able to capture those moments on paper through words for others to enjoy.

I have been published in Reader’s Digest, Horses All, The Violet Ray magazines and many newspapers. I write because there is a certain power in the written word that cannot be denied. Words can heal a wounded soul, teach, inspire, entertain and inform people. I also self-published a book called, “The Rose Path.”
I write because, I feel better when I do and from what I hear, so do others who read my prose.

WordPress is filled with talented, artistic entrepreneurs. It contains a wealth of knowledge if you are looking to learn. With the discovery of WordPress I began to take blogging seriously. As a Canadian author I find the WordPress community to be very kind and supportive.

I have come across many helpful sites on WordPress but upon finding beetleypete – well, I just kept coming back.
Beetleypete is very knowledgeable about the blogging world. From his site; I’ve learned what an avatar is and how to utilize the excerpt. Sites like https://www.beetleypete.com also teach blogging etiquette. I like beetleypete’s no nonsense approach.

The day he published: “New bloggers: Following Back,” I commented because even as a new blogger I’ve come across the ‘follow me back,’ phenomenon.
Be prepared new bloggers; if you comment on another site, your own may be visited. Have more than the, ‘WordPress example post’ exhibited on your blog if beetleypete visits! “Canadian Tourists always have Maple Leaf patches on their bags so that we don’t think they are Americans,” commented beetleypete. He has lived in London most of his life but has since moved to Norfork to enjoy a slower lifestyle and country ways.
Beetleypete otherwise known as Pete read, “Literally Torn,” then generously invited me to do a guest blog about Canada because they get little news about us unless it involves a Royal visit.

Upon Finding beetleypete

In Canada, we have been in short supply of worldly news. Starving the World’s population of international news is a fall-out of the pandemic!
(We did receive news in Canada regarding the Royal family’s loss of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. We grieve with the United Kingdom.)
Let me begin by sharing that every five years in Canada, Canadians are legally required to participate in the ‘census’ to help paint a picture of our diverse population and where we live. We completed the census recently.
As a middle class Canadian, I get extremely annoyed when the census comes around asking questions regarding my cultural background. I have a myriad of different cultural bloodlines running through my veins. My family has been in Canada for generations. I was born here. I am Canadian! Enough said!

Even though I was born in the great country of Canada, it would be negligent of me not to mention that:
“I am not going to be reliable source for current events. I live an isolated existence on the Canadian prairie away from the masses. I do not live in an igloo or tee pee; I live in a house with four walls – sorry, for squashing that Canadian stereotype. We do have electricity; television and internet which helps me stay informed. Plus, Google is my friend – I know how research on it. I do my best to entertain those who love to read, learn and muse but there are other journalists better equipped in Canada to write about current events. So be prepared, I’m about to give you a rather satirical view of what is going on in Canada.”
“I don’t normally delve into the world of politics on my blog. However, life amid a pandemic has been frustrating even in our peace loving country thanks to the current political sphere.”

Canada is situated on the top half of North America. We are often referred to as, ‘The Great White North.’ Canada is a large country spanning from the Atlantic Ocean on the east to the Pacific Ocean on the west. I have traveled Canada from coast to coast. Due to the pandemic, some of the provincial boarders are now closed.
Canada is a country with many cultures and belief systems. If you are interested in learning about another culture, the only thing necessary is an open mind and willingness to learn. Canadians are amicable, hard working, intelligent people who enjoy life. We have a great sense of humour. We value laughter. But, above all, we value what freedoms we are afforded. Most Canadians are very aware of the fact that other countries pay attention to our Democratic politics.
Canadians are also aware that our multi-coloured currency looks similar to that found within board games such as Monopoly or Stock Ticker. In our defence, we are a colourful people who deserve colourful coinage!
We are proud to be known as a Peace keeping nation which is why we display our maple leaf when travelling.
I suspect, the world sees our southern United States of America neighbours as more aggressive than those of us living in the Great White North because – they don’t have “legalized marijuana.”
We are known as humble people in Canada – even our own Prime Minister has described us as meek and complacent. Plus, most recently, he smugly referred to us as a bunch of ‘tinfoil hats!’

I find our current Prime Minister and his denigrated political ideals offensive. In my opinion, he has done nothing more than divide our beautiful country with reprehensible, arrogant viewpoints; toting incessantly that they are the “Woke.” If he actually believes that he or his party is “Woke” then they better lay-off of the ‘whacky tobacky’ they are so proud to have legalized in Canada! The “Woke” are out of touch with reality!
I am certain the Prime Minister would like to blame Covid-19 for the unrest in our country. According to the ‘Woke,’ our current madness stems from the isolation of our third pandemic lock-down.
The truth of the matter is that the Prime Minister of Canada was given too much power at the beginning of this pandemic. Too much power in the hands of the wrong person is dangerous. The Prime Minister and the Liberal party scheme behind closed doors – they are dangerous. They have been scheming to take hard fought freedoms and rights away but they have been found out! (Luckily, we still have the sharp-eyed United Conservative Party (UCP) actively working at the House of Commons in Ottawa. The UPC has alerted the Canadian public to numerous underhanded ploys attempted by the ‘Woke.’)
Regardless of what you may have seen televised on Main Stream Media (MSM); ‘meek, complacent Canadians,’ across the country have been banding together, outraged at elected officials who continue to participate in over-reaching, reprehensible acts in parliament such as abuses of power. Outrage alone should show the Prime Minister that Canadians are neither meek nor complacent and, remind him and his party that they are accountable to the people of Canada.
The ‘Liberal Woke’ members of parliament are elected officials who are not speaking, acting or representing their constituents. Instead, the ‘Woke’ party seek to promote their own dictorial ideals.
One would think Canadians actively protesting for their Charter of Rights would be enough to levy the Prime Minister and his party a rude awakening! Instead, their arrogance prevails. It seems the ‘Woke,’ merely roll up one fat doobie after another then check into fantasy land oblivious to the ensuing drama and political dissention they cause!
(Today’s politics or news broadcasts are all about denial, fear mongering & distracting the public with Covid statistics. It is absolutely nauseating! If you are looking for actual news in Canada, you have to look anywhere but Mainstream Media for it.)

Unrest in Canada is always indicated when the ‘Bloc Quebecois’ starts screaming separation. Quebec is the most vocal province we have when it comes to constitutional rights. I have always admired Quebecers for this tenacity. They are spitting mad and wanting a divorce!
Quebec – the rest of Canada is empathetic but, in light of never ending Covid-19 spikes; let me remind you to flatten the curve by quoting our illustrious Prime Minister, “Don’t breathe moistly on anyone.”
Quebec is an eastern province. If they separate, I hope they don’t take Newfoundland or our maritime provinces. Those people would give you the shirts right off of their back after filling your belly with jiggs dinner!
The Prime Minister’s fantasy land of choice is Ontario.
I never hear news about Manitoba. They are an extremely quiet province. The capital of Manitoba is Winnipeg. Winnipeg is a beautiful, extremely cold city. Many people call Winnipeg; Winter-peg. It’s still spring in Canada so the people of Manitoba could thawing their bones. I know from experience what it’s like to try and communicate when teeth chatter from the winter cold. Manitoba has its borders closed for non-essential travel.
Saskatchewan is the breadbasket of Canada.
People jokingly say that we live in Saskatchewan. We don’t but if I stood on a nearby hill with binoculars, I can see that province! From where I live, a carrier pigeon would deliver a message to someone along the Saskatchewan border in about four hours. I haven’t heard any substantial news about my neighbouring province to the east either. What I can tell you about Saskatchewan Canadians is that they are very loyal; especially to their Rough Rider football team. I mean, any people who would carve out a watermelon and wear it on their head like a helmet in loyalty to a football team is alright in my books!

I am from the Western province of Alberta.

Let me say that again; I am from Alberta. The Prime Minister would like to pretend Alberta doesn’t exist. He actually forgot to name our province when reciting the provinces of Canada! What an endearing puppet!

It is probably no secret that Canada has an upcoming election. Political posturing abounds between various parties. We have a great many things in our country to be proud of – the current Prime Minister is not one of them. Bearded or unbearded, I find him to be a complete embarrassment! The thought of an election has me on my knees praying to the Universe, “Please let Prime Minister Pinocchio and his ‘Woke’ party crickets return to fantasy land!”
So, while Quebec screams separation on the political front, a petition to unify Canada’s western provinces has emerged once again. The petition is called Wexit. It includes the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Albertan and British Columbia. I guess that bears further watching.
We started hearing the cry for Wexit again in Alberta recently when Premier Jason Kenney of the UCP, decided to flex his muscles and force our province into our third lock-down during the first week-end of May. The Premier’s tactic was to utilize RCMP members and city police forces to dole out tickets with hefty fines and/or arrest any Albertan who gathered peacefully in protest. Specifically, they were to target any Albertans defying rules which contravened Section 73(1) of the Public Health Act of Alberta – especially those who refused to wear masks even while outdoors. The facade behind the lock-down was to flatten the spiking Covid curve by jabbing as many Albertans as possible with the now available vaccines; thereby saving lives and easing the strain on our over-worked, stressed-out Health Care system.
Alberta protesters simply ignored the Premier as they were defending their Constitutional Rights such as the right to assemble and freedom of choice. I would like to point out, that peaceful protests were taking place in cities across Canada and internationally for the same reasons during that week-end.

In Alberta, rallies were held in a variety of cities including our capital city of Edmonton and in Calgary (home of the infamous Calgary Stampede), with no MSM coverage. Bowden; a town between Edmonton and Calgary, held a rodeo on private property. Why the Premier and the news media chose to zero in on the Bowden Rodeo attendees is beyond me. I’ve seen pictures and videos of the tough, healthy country folk, and cowboys who attended. They all looked healthy! Anyhow, there was quite the hoopla over this little rodeo because of their outlandish refusal to mask-up for an outdoor event.
The Premier said he felt like he’d been slapped in the face by the disobedient rodeo goer’s then closed the Alberta parliament for two weeks and ran home to sulk. He even admitted to wanting a new base of supporters.
Rachel Notley, is head of the New Dreamtime Party (NDP) in Alberta. They are the official opposition of Alberta’s UPC and close allies of the ‘Woke.’ She figured since the Premier had tucked tail and run that it was safe for her to poke her head up from wherever she’s been n-deep-sleeping and yell in all her blurry-eyed, glory; “Coward!” No doubt her munchies of choice during Covid-19 has been the orange coloured THC laced gummy bears – this heady delight, is what it would take for Ms. Notley to have found such dreamtime courage. Albertans have not forgotten what her short stint in power did to our province!

As for Alberta’s Premier feeling like he’d been slapped – better a good slap than a swift kick in the butt via pointed cowboy boots!
There have been MSM reports that Alberta is an anomaly. The Government doesn’t know what to do with us. (Political mumbo jumbo and Covid statistics are like the weather in Canada. If you don’t like it just wait a couple of minutes.)
The third lock-down in Alberta is easing.
The redneck slap brought Premier Kenney to his senses or perhaps, someone just poured him a strong cup of Tim Horton’s coffee. In any case, he returned to the Alberta Legislature Building after a two week hiatus prancing around like a proud rooster. Albertans successfully exceeded the Premiers expectations. 60% have gotten jabbed at least once with a dose of vaccination. Kenney is now dangling the golden carrot of freedom in front of his base supporters.

Beginning June 1st, Albertan’s can enjoy the more relaxed restrictions of Stage 1.
Stage 2 of regained freedom begins June 10th. We get more rewards as long as we stay diligent at flattening the curve.
Stage 3, enters at the end of June or beginning of July, with the promise of a Calgary Stampede. It appears we’ll be able to gather publicly – at least at the Stampede in Calgary. (This will be a welcome change from the gatherings held at Walmart or Costco!)
British Columbia is Alberta’s neighbouring province to the west. They too have had their borders closed for anything but essential travel. They are attempting to knock down the Covid-19 spike prior to tourist season.

In British Columbia, MSM actually reported some breaking news on May 27th.
A mass grave with over 215 First Nations children was uncovered in what used to be Canada’s largest residential school in Kamloops, B.C. This school operated between the years of 1890-1969 under a Catholic order called the Oblates of Mary Immaculate until the federal government took it over and ran it as a day-home until 1978 when it closed. Missing, undocumented children as young as 3 years old were discovered by a ground penetrating radar.
The recent breaking story by MSM is a reminder of our not so distant past when assimilation took place in our country through genocidal, prejudicial degradation of our First Nations and Indigenous people.
I am not only devastated for the families and band nations in Canada for these losses but also, for those who continue to suffer daily because of elitist, anti-Semitic beliefs. Canadians will never be able to fully rectify these injustices. Those of us in touch with reality know who the true ‘savages’ are in our society and where they hide. We must hold them accountable for inflictions of horror.
The Prime Minister has offered his feigned, contrition.

On the Federal front, the Prime Minister has also come up with an International travel strategy; this mainly due to his own self-interests. His motivation – he desires to find the magical Blue Fairy who will turn him into a real boy so he can attend the G7 Summit in the United Kingdom which is scheduled for June 11-13, 2021.
It seems a shameful to have spent so much time sharing about Canada’s political sitcom when there are many wonderful things about Canada. However, the current political sphere has me sitting on the edge of my seat wondering what type of absurdity will happen next! The state of our country or, that of any other country in the world since the pandemic began is unbelievable. The news here is the same as elsewhere – it’s all politically motivated pandemic propaganda or twisted with distractions designed to hide politically motivated strategies.
Suffice to say; no news is not good news for Canada!
At the end of the day, whether we exit or we stay, our PM remains nothing more than a drama teacher puppet. That being said, this ‘tin-hat’ bulletin author finds Canadians up Schitt’s Creek without a paddle.

Thank-you for reading! Stay tuned for more Canadian political satires on the blogosphere.
Also, my humble gratitude to Pete for graciously allowing me to guest blog on his site!
For more of my creative stories, please visit: https://www.thetrefoilmuse.com

Astra-Zeneca Vaccine And Blood Clots

There has been a great deal of uproar on the news media over the deaths of some people after receiving the first dose of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine. They developed a rare form of low-platelet blood clot in the brain, and that was almost certainly associated with them receiving the vaccine. Any death is tragic, and someone dying after taking a vaccine to try to prevent contracting Covid-19 is in itself a terrible irony. My sympathies go to any family affected by this.

However, compared to the millions of people who have been vaccinated, the death rate is remarkably low from those clots. It is around a one in a million chance that it might happen. To put that into perspective, you have more chance of drowning in your own bath, or being killed by an aircraft crashing on your house.

So no baths, and no sitting in your house?

Some EU countries have now banned the use of that brand of vaccine, and the UK government is not going to give it to younger people, who seem to be at higher risk of the clots.

But before you decide not to have it, please think about the statistics.

More chance of being killed crossing the road outside your house.
More chance of being killed by being struck by lightning.
Much more chance of being killed whilst driving your car anywhere.
More chance of being killed in a train crash.
More chance of being killed by an allergic reaction to an insect bite or sting.

I could go on, but you get the point.

There has been no evidence that the second dose has caused any blood clots. So if you have already had the first one, then please go ahead and have the second one when it is offered.

The Nightingale Hospitals and Covid-19

When the government spent untold millions converting and equipping various large indoor spaces to provide specialist intensive care for for Coronavirus patients, everyone thought is was well done indeed. Using the Armed Services, the buildings were turned into hospitals in record time, and it was promised that they would take all the pressure off of regular hospitals, allowing them to continue to treat non-Covid cases.

That didn’t happen of course.

As the pandemic continued, and the death rate increased, little mention was made of the once-lauded Nightingale Hospitals. Then time passed, and it was discovered that they were actually empty of patients.

When pressed, the government claimed they would be used as testing centres instead.

Then they were going to be used as vaccination hubs.

Some journalists investigated, and found them closed up, guarded by security officers. When asked about this, the government claimed that they were being used to store PPE. And they didn’t even look embarrassed when they said that.

The government was lying all along. The Health Minister was lying all along. As they dished out lucrative contracts to their friends to stock the Nightingale Hospitals, most thought it a necessary expense to provide the care needed. But nobody told us when all the equipment was later removed, after only a tiny number of patients had actually been treated. Where is all that expensive equipment now? And what about the public money spent on the whole fiasco?

I found an article today that brings the woeful story of these ’emergency hospitals’ up to date. It makes interesting reading.

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/nightingale-hospitals-covid-patient-numbers_uk_605a0dd6c5b6cebf58d220eb?utm_source=pocket-newtab-global-en-GB

Art: What I like

I have rarely discussed Art on this blog. However, I recently featured some Edward Hopper paintings, and that got me thinking about paintings that I love to look at. So here are some of them. I make no claim to know anything about painting, so cannot discuss technique, or other matters. As the old saying goes, “I may not know much about Art, but I know what I like”. (Gellet Burgess)

Jan Van Eyck (1390-1441) painted the Amolfini Portrait in 1434. It depicts an Italian merchant and his wife at their home in Brugues, Belgium. I love the detail, including the reflection in the mirror, and the small dog.

Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980) was a Polish portrait painter who spent her working life in France and America. She painted in the Art Deco style, using bold colours and including stylistic representations of the period. Here are some examples of her work, including her self-portait driving a car.

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) was a Mexican artist who painted many self-portraits, never attempting to change her striking features. Disabled by Polio, then badly injured in a traffic accident, she was bedridden for years, and used art as therapy. Always politically active too, Frida was a member of The Communist Party. Here are two examples.

Diego Rivera (1886-1957) was the husband of Frida Kahlo, and a renowned Mexican artist best known for painting extensive murals. The following images are sections taken from much larger works.

Kazimir Malevich (1879-1935) was a Russian painter who was part of the Avant-Garde school. He was known for his colourful abstract images. I have a print of this one of his paintings, ‘The Red House’ (1932), but my wife doesn’t like it one bit, so it is in the loft.

Beryl Cook (1926-2008) was an English painter who specialised in larger-than-life figures, usually involved in various aspects of British social life. She injected great humour into her paintings, alongside acute observation of everyday activities. Here are two examples.

There you have a short insight into the kind of art I love to look at and admire. Feel free to mention your own favourites in the comments.

Life

Life. It can be a real pain sometimes.

Always something you don’t want to do, that needs to be done.

And some boring reason why you can’t do the thing you actually want to be doing.

Modern life is like a list of 80% things you don’t want to have to deal with.

10% of things that you can just about deal with without going out of your mind.

And 9% things that you actually enjoy doing, and want to keep doing. Whatever the consequences.

Oh, and that odd 1%?

That’s the mystery of life.

The Covid Passport

When someone receives the vaccination for Coronavirus, they are issued with a small card. Their details are also registered on the system, so it is recorded that they have been vaccinated.

Reading online about people who are going to refuse the vaccine, and knowing at least one member of my own close family who will not have it, I started to think about the potential repercussions of exercising your right not to be vaccinated.

That small card, and the computerised record that back it up, could well turn out to be your passport to a return to something like normal life in the not too distant future.

Imagine the restrictions that could be introduced on people who cannot prove they have been vaccinated.

Want to go and see a film, or a show at the theatre?
Show me your card.

Want to book a table at a restaurant?
Show me your card.

Want to use public transport?
Show me your card.

Want to book a foreign holiday, travelling by train, sea or air?
Show me your card.

Want to stay overnight in a hotel, motel, or B&B?
Show me your card.

Want to rent a car or van?
Show me your card.

Want to adopt a child?
Show me your card.

Want to register at a dentist?
Show me your card.

Want to have your hair cut, or a beauty treatment?
Show me you card.

Want to drink in a pub, or go into a nightclub?
Show me your card.

Want to take driving lessons or take the driving test?
Show me your card.

Want to apply for a job where you will be working with others?
Show me your card.

Want to study at a university, or college?
Show me your card.

I could go on. There are many more potential pitfalls of not being vaccinated.

Of course, none of this may happen. I have certainly not heard that is going to. There would need to be extra administration put into place, employment of more security guards and doormen, and then there will always be fake cards.

Nonetheless, if you are considering refusing the vaccine, I have some advice.

Think twice.

Thank you, Mr Welles

Reblogging this personal tribute to Orson Welles from 2013. Not many of you will have seen it before.

beetleypete

Orson Welles is considered by many to be the greatest film maker in history. I do not necessarily agree with that, although I do consider him to be one of the greatest actors of all time. His voice alone is worth a career, let alone his charismatic presence in a film.

As a very young man, I was captivated by him on film at the cinema, and on TV, when his films were shown there. His brief appearances in ‘The Third Man’, lift the film totally, and his wry grin steals every scene that he is in. Whatever you might think of him, his talent is surely indisputable, and from an early age, he showed the touch of genius that would characterise his life in cinema. The ensemble cast of his best known films, ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’, and ‘Citizen Kane’, was to follow him throughout his all too short film…

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Virus Deaths: One Story

I read something on a local newspaper website earlier this week. I went back to get a link to add here, but it has been taken down. Presumably to save the family from more distress.

We are all reading about deaths from the virus, all around the world. As the numbers get bigger, they stop becoming people, and are just numbers. I read that 1,000 people have died fom the virus in the USA. Can you imagine seeing 1,000 dead bodies laid out in a line? I once saw more than 20 bodies at the scene of a train crash. It looked like a lot of bodies. And I was an EMT, so used to seeing such things.

1,000 bodies arranged in a line would stretch almost 3,000 yards. That’s 1.7 miles. That distance would take almost 30 minutes to walk, at a normal pace. Hard to comprehend, I know.

So let’s just think about one person who died because of this virus, and the impact on his family.

A local man in his fifties had a mild heart attack last year. He had a stent procedure to open a coronary artery, was put on blood-thinning drugs, and sent home. He went back to work as normal, and returned home to his wife and two twenty-something children who still lived at the house. Just over a week ago, he woke up with a very high temperature, so stayed off work. The next day he had a very bad cough too. Covid-19 was suspected, and the call was made to the family doctor. That doctor decided to send an ambulance to take the man into the emergency department of the local main hospital.

He had to travel without his wife and family of course. They were not allowed to get close to him as he was taken to the ambulance, so no goodbye kisses. Then because they were in a house where those symptoms were found, they all had to self-isolate. Calling the hospital that night, they were told that he was ‘seriously ill’. The next day, someone called them to tell them he had died.

Imagine that. No goodbyes, no last moments together, no chance to comfort the man she had been married to for thirty years.

The funeral was just 24 hours later, a cremation arranged by a local undertaker. The family was informed that only ten mourners could attend. But as they were self-isolating, they were not allowed to go. Any relatives or friends that might usually have attended did not want to travel during this crisis. So the man was cremated in an empty facility. The undertaker sent a bill, adding that they understood it would be some time before payment could be made. The ashes would be sent to her in due course.

That’s it. Thirty years together comes down to three phone calls, and it’s all over.

Then the everyday problems begin. To get an official death certificate, you have to attend the appropriate department at the Town Hall, with the initial certificate given to you at the hospital. But you are self-isolating, and are not allowed out. Even if they could go out, the office is closed because of the lockdown of workplaces. And you would not be allowed into the hospital to collect their form, as you were too close to someone who died from Covid-19.

Without that death certificate, you cannot access the man’s bank account or savings. Cannot cancel his credit card, or any other payments still going out of his account. You cannot make a claim on his life insurance, sell his car, or do a dozen other things that have crossed your mind will need doing.

On top of your grief, you have to deal with all that stuff too.

Then there is the worry. What about me? What about the chldren? Will we get it now? You can’t seek comfort from relatives and friends either, because you are not allowed out. Anyway, it wouldn’t be a good idea, even if you were.

In the last 24 hours in Spain, 832 people died. Imagine that story above, mutiplied by that figure.

That’s the reality. Are you scared yet? You should be.

Yes still, social media is showing people, mostly young people and teenagers, who think it is funny to spit on food in supermarkets, or rub their saliva over the handles on public transport. Parcel delivery people spitting on parcels that they then hand to a recipient, idiots licking toilet seats, some deliberately touching things in shops then replacing them, and even claiming that Covid-19 is a hoax, and doesn’t exist. Some of those videos have been shared over half a million times, watched by giggling youngsters who think it is all a great joke.

Try telling that to the wife of the man who died near here this week.

McDonald’s: The Last Bastion Falls

Rutland is the smallest county in England. Only 17 miles long by 18 miles wide, it is land-locked, and has a population of less than 40,000.

It has just two towns of any size, Oakham and Uppingham. The most significant feature of the county is a huge artificial lake, Rutland Water. This is a nature reserve, and an important site for wildlife, especially breeding birds.

But Rutland is also famous for something else. It is the ONLY county in England that does not have a McDonald’s restaurant. The attractive historical streets of Oakham and Uppinham do offer a selection of cafes and restaurants, as well as many privately-owned traditional shops. But no fast-food outlets have ever been allowed to spoil the area.

That might all change, at a local Council meeting this evening. On a site just outside the town of Oakham, the burger giant has requested planning permission to build a 24-hour drive through restaurant. One of the larger types that have been seen here over the past couple of years. The benefits to the community are more than being able to buy some chicken nuggets at two in the morning. In an area of high unemployment, sixty new jobs will be generated, and valuable taxes paid into the local economy by the American company too.

Poorer families in the area will be able to take advantage of ‘meal deals’ and cheaper fast food, without having to drive into neighbouring counties to do so.

The population of Rutland appears to be divided by the issue. Existing cafes and restaurants will undoubtedly suffer, especially in the long term. Rubbish will be generated by thoughtless customers flinging it from car windows, or dumping it around the town. And it is inevitable that other jobs will be lost in eating establishments that cannot compete with the popularity of McDonald’s.

As I type this, it seems likely that the Town Council will approve the application tonight, and building will start. I would not deny that the town needs jobs, or that people should be able to buy a Big Mac if they want one.

But I am sad. Sad that the smallest county in my country, the only one to have never approved a McDonald’s, has finally succumbed to globalisation.

Alexa, Google, and Cookies: The frightening reality

I don’t have a ‘digital assistant’. But my wife used to have ‘Google Assistant’ active on her phone. She liked that it allowed her to ask her phone a question, without having to type it in.

Many people love their ‘Amazon Alexa’, using it to do many things in their lives, especially to remind them of appointments or dates, or to play music.

We all know that ‘Cookies’ trace what we search for online, and most of the sites we browse on the Internet. We can refuse to allow Cookies in the main, though that will often mean you are unable to look at something, for example a news website in full.

In our modern society, many people complain about the intrusion into our lives. Excessive CCTV, tracking of credit card use, tracking of bus and train ticket use, and much more. Unless you walk everywhere, and keep all your money in a box under your bed, you can be sure that your habits are being tracked, like it or not.

But the ‘digital assistants’ take this to another level, and in my opinion, one that should cause us all concern.

Here are two examples of why I believe this to be true.

Earlier this week, we were watching TV in the evening. My wife’s phone was connected to the home wi-fi, but she wasn’t using it at the time. It was sitting on a side table, the screen black. During a break in the programme, she turned to me and started to talk about what had happened in the first part. Just general chit-chat, nothing too private. The screen on her phone lit up, and she picked it up, presuming someone was calling, or sending a text.

She was shocked to see that her phone was typing what she had been saying. She turned to me and said, “It’s typing everything I have just been talking about”. As she said that, it continued to type those words too. She went into settings, and disabled Google Assistant. The phone didn’t like that, and popped up a warning that ‘You will be unable to access many features of your phone if you do this”. If it could have spoken those words, I have no doubt it would have sounded very much like the voice of Big Brother, in the film of Orwell’s novel.

Once it had been uninstalled, she was unable to find where it had stored what it had been typing. Her words had disappeared into the Great Google Hard Drive, somewhere in America, presumably.

This morning, we were unpacking a parcel. It was a buggy and car seat combination that we had ordered for my step-daughter’s new baby, due in two weeks. As we struggled with the huge carton, my wife’s phone rang, and it was her daughter. A happy coincidence. They switched their phones to the Facebook equivalent of face-time, and she was shown the cartons laid out on the carpet. As they carried on chatting, I went back into the office room to continue checking on blog posts.

I had been reading one from Lobotero, concerning ISIS and Iran. Scrolling down to the end, an advertisement popped up at the bottom of his site.

It was for the exact same buggy and car seat combination. The same model, and the same colour. Stupidly, it suggested I should order one, and even offered a discount voucher. Perhaps they thought I would buy two of them, for one baby?

Of greater concern was the fact that Facebook had obviously been monitoring my wife’s phone camera activity on their site. In less than forty seconds, that had generated an large advertisement on the website of an unconnected American blogger, directly targeted at me.

If they can do that, I have to wonder what else they can do.